The recent Putin put down in his N. Y. Times “op-ed” descrying the phrase “American exceptionalism” certainly has some basis if you read or watch what the media regularly report. It is hard to refute that argument if your focus is on mass shootings, Hollywood celeb shenanigans or the person whom we have elected as the CEO of the country, President Obama.
If you look at our stagnant economy, those who are willing to sit on their duffs and collect a government stipend, the shootings that go on regularly in our inner cities and the government’s inability to deal with realistic spending or to develop programs that actually have a positive effect, there is nothing in any of these to contradict the Commissar in Charge’s allegations.
So what happened to American exceptionalism – or did it ever actually exist? Well, it did exist and still does – though the examples are far fewer than could be found if we go back a generation or more. In some respect, the achievements of previous generations have contributed to our current effete society. They did great things and handed them down to us and we have taken their sacrifices and their hard work for granted and now have a mindset that we are “entitled” to what we have and yet we want even more.
There are, however, still examples of the honesty, generosity and selflessness that were once a part of America. They are too few and they are too under-reported but they exist nevertheless. In this week’s news, absorbed as we are with Syria and the budget, two stories emerged – and at their center are two professional athletes who have shone the bright light of gratitude and responsibility on us and provided examples that we should all heed.
You might have heard about former New England Patriot’s player, Brian Holloway whose vacant farm house was the scene for a party held by 300 teens who, over several days, trashed the place while taking drugs, drinking and urinating in the building. Holloway now lives in Florida and is a motivational speaker. Before discussing his response to this episode I would like to share a personal experience with respect to home invasion.
Many years ago I decided to refurbish the wooden window frames in my condo. One of my neighbors was a designer and gave me the name of a crew that had done similar work in her apartment. So I hired the group and they began the project.
It happened that during the course of this project the anniversary of my grandmother’s death occurred. One of the things that she had passed along was a small collection of silver dollars and four old quarters. They had no great numismatic value but were invaluable as memorabilia. The four quarters were the last paycheck my grandfather had brought home before his death – a day’s wages; and the fourteen Morgan dollars were the totality of their savings. Grandma vowed never to spend these.
So here was a young woman who in 1921 found a second job to support her two daughters and to further supplement her meager income took in other peoples’ laundry. There were no social safety nets other than what might be gleaned from friends and family. Somehow she made it, never amassing a fortune but despite her lowly jobs and lack of a formal education was able to pay the bills and make sure that her daughters went to college.
When I went to look at these coins I found they were missing. I cannot describe the sense of emptiness that came over me when I made this discovery. One of the workmen had also stolen some small pieces of jewelry, but the police found those in a pawn shop. The coins were never recovered.
I can only imagine how Mr. Holloway felt when he went to his empty farmhouse and saw the destruction that these 300 teenagers had caused. If it were me, as calm as my demeanor normally is, I think I would have been overcome with a great sense of outrage and would have been looking for justice and even revenge.
But Mr. Holloway rose above that venality. He started a website and posted the pictures that these cretin teens had themselves posted on Facebook, extolling their own malfeasance. His goal was to bring them to accountability through public shaming. As of this writing, only one of those has come to him and admitted his participation in the orgy. But he has heard from several parents who are threatening law suits for exposing their miscreant children for what they are. With that sort of parental response, it is not hard to understand why these kids behaved as they did.
I sympathize with Mr. Holloway for his loss. As he pointed out, everything can be repaired or replaced. And I laud him for his efforts to hold the kids who were involved accountable – despite the obvious lack of positive parental supervision or direction. To my mind, Mr. Holloway is a true example of an American who is exceptional.
The second gentleman who deserves recognition is Boston Red Sox pitcher, Jon Lester. He is a survivor of non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer. He struggled against this disease and overcame it. And he is concerned that not enough attention is being paid to pediatric cancer research. So in conjunction with Pediatric Research Foundation Board member Rob Quish, he has established the “NVRQT” charity, which stands for “Never Quit” to raise money for research.
Mr. Lester has also taken time to meet with children who are either undergoing cancer therapy or who have finished their program, to encourage them to fight against their disease. He talks to them about his own experience in battling the disease and offers them the hope that can only come from a fellow survivor.
In an interview he spoke about his role as a professional athlete. He recognizes that there are, “Some who simply pay baseball because that’s what they want to do. But others realize that we are role models for youngsters and we have to accept and embrace that responsibility.”
Kudos to Mr. Lester for providing all of us with a positive example and best wishes to him that he remains cancer free.
Most of us will never be recognized for doing the right thing. But it is, to my thinking, that doing the right thing needs no recognition because it is its own reward. That is, of course, an old-fashioned idea. But it is that philosophy which was fundamental to those who came before us and because of whom the term “American exceptionalism” came into being. For providing us with their example, we should all be grateful and take their sacrifices to heart and say, “Thank you.”